Disability

Several key debates in practical ethics revolve around disability. Is it permissible for prospective parents to use reproductive technology to screen against disabilities such as Down’s syndrome or even deafness, or is it just a form of dangerous eugenics? Don’t such parental choices express a repugnant negative statement about the value of disabled people and their lives? On the other hand, there are disabled couples who want to use reproductive technology to create children who are deaf like them. Would that be wrong? How could it be wrong if the resulting child wouldn’t have even existed otherwise?

 Another set of important questions revolve around justice, prejudice, and normality. On the widespread ‘medical model’ of disability, we should think of disability as akin to disease: it is a deviation from biological normality that needs to be cured or corrected. But is there anything inherently bad about deviating from the biologically normal? Why is normality important? According to the opposing ‘social model’, defended by many disability activists, disability is no more than the product of social prejudice against the different and atypical. But even if pernicious prejudice against disabled people is still pervasive, is it really the only reason for the difficulties faces by many disabled people?